Man from Gatineau gets face transplant in Canada’s first operation of its kind

The surgery necessitated more than a hundred technical, nursing, and support staff.


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The story

Maurice Desjardins was in a hunting accident, seven years ago, when a bullet struck him in the face.

The native from Gatineau, Quebec, underwent multiple operations to try and fix the damage that occurred.  After several operations, doctors managed to stitch parts of his face back together.

Left with only two holes in the area where his nose used to be, Desjardins’ loss of his jaw meant that he was also breathing from an open hole in his face.

Tragically, Desjardins would walk around in pain, breathing from a hole in his trachea and drooling from not being able to close his mouth.  Because of the accident, Desjardins would often leave his house with a surgical mask around his face.  He also lost his roofing business.

The operation

With no other options, he was afforded one last opportunity.  A face transplant, a procedure that has never occurred in Canada.

Dr. Borsuk, a plastic surgeon from the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, in Montreal, would be the one to perform the facial transplant in Canada, and after years of five inadequate reconstructive surgeries for Desjardins, this is exactly what he needed.

There were several issues at hand that were, ultimately, life threatening.

One of the existential threats came from the notion of extreme blood loss on the operating table.  Alternatively, Desjardins could become fatally ill from his body rejecting the new tissue.  Lastly, there was a chance he could acquire a deadly cancer from the medicine his body would require for the procedure to be successful.

It took 12 hours just to get the lower half of Desjardins’ face off of him.

Only Desjardin’s upper eyelids, eyes, and forehead remained.  The next few hours were crucial in performing the face transplant.

A new chance at a normal life

The surgery necessitated more than a hundred technical, nursing, and support staff.  It also required an additional five anaesthesiologists, nine surgeons, and five years of planning.

Using today’s top of the line technology, the lead surgeon on the procedure, Dr. Borsuk, managed to fit the donor’s face on perfectly.

Desjardins would become the oldest patient ever to receive a face transplant, at 65-years-old.  He would now have a new chance at life, with his wife, and with new opportunities to spend time with his granddaughter.

Dr. Borsuk not only provided a man with a chance of a happier life, but also accomplished a successful 30-hour surgical feat never performed in Canada before.

For more information, watch this National Post video here:


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Jonathan Wasserlauf
Jonathan is interested in the intersection between politics, pop culture, the media, and their audiences.
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